Flying By The Seat Of Your Pants?
The Case For Developing A Marketing Plan.
By Paul Quinn, © 2002
Does this sound familiar? There's growing pressure
to reduce costs and the large pool of money attributed to
the marketing and advertising budget looks an inviting target
for some 'selective pruning'. After all, who can really
tell what last year's spend resulted in anyway? After contemplating
the less-than-exciting demand from current clients and the
continued flat employment growth figures, you do some rough
calculations and decide to use last year's marketing budget
Setting a marketing budget based on what you have spent
in the past, as opposed to developing a marketing plan and
determining the investment required to fund it is not an
uncommon scenario for many recruitment agencies. For example,
recruitment agencies have been known to continue to advertise
in a particular publication, enter into sponsorship arrangements,
attend a particular tradeshow or purchase a range of promotional
merchandise, because "that's what we've always done
and our business seems to be travelling okay". However,
because there is no marketing plan (and often little measurement
and accountability on prior activities) management often
neglect to review and refine their spend to ensure they
are deriving maximum impact for their marketing investment.
So why should I bother?
There are many compelling reasons why recruitment agencies
should consider a more strategic approach to marketing.
The development of a Marketing Plan can:(1)
1. Save you money because it helps to identify
where to focus your marketing effort for the best return
on your investment.
2. Save you time because you reduce the creative
time and effort required to develop key messages, text
and graphics every time you need new marketing materials.
3. Serve as a foundation and benchmark for all
your creative collateral and assures consistency in all
subsequent company messaging.
4. Promote consistency and trust in your customer
relationships by scheduling regular, professional communications.
5. Grow your business by identifying gaps in your
service offering. Analysing the needs of your clients
and candidates and mapping these against the services
you currently offer helps you to refine current services
and develop new ones that more closely align with the
things that your customers really value.
6. Say you're serious about your business. A marketing
plan indicates to other people that you have given serious
thought and consideration about the direction your company
is taking, and increases your chances of success.
7. Assist in the budget development process. Your
marketing budget is devised from the ground-up, based
on the cost of implementing a set of strategic activities
of relevance to your target market.
So, what exactly is a marketing plan?
Whether you call it a marketing plan or a marketing strategy,
everyone has a different notion of what should be included.
Irrespective of what you call it, an effective plan should
focus less on the 'weight' of the document and more on the
development of activities that add real and measurable value
to the bottom-line. An effective plan is typically underpinned
by marketing theory but is not dominated by it to ensure
it becomes a succinct and useful tool that is regularly
The process of developing your marketing plan is just as
important as the final document you produce because it is
through the process that vital questions like, "How
are we different from our competitors?" and "What
are the needs of our target audience?" are answered.
It also provides you with an opportunity to do some basic
client and candidate research to gain an accurate picture
of how your clients' view your agency compared to competitors.
Believe me, it is not unusual for this to be a very different
picture to the one you think they hold of you.
Below is a list of the key sections that Quinntessential
include in the marketing plans we write for recruitment
(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats, Competitor
(Description and Needs Analysis)
Action Plan (includes
roles, responsibilities, timing etc)
Read below to view a more detailed account of what each
It is easy to approach marketing with a 'fly by the seat
of your pants' approach, but instinctively most managers
realise that this is not the most effective way to run their
business. Instead of taking a laissez-faire approach to
marketing, take control. The benefits of developing a plan
are numerous and far outstrip the investment you make in
developing one. Not only will a marketing plan help you
to make the most of the money you are spending, you'll also
develop an understanding of how to deliver a message that
is both relevant and valued by your target market. And finally,
as the old adage goes, "Those that fail to plan, plan
The Contents Of A Marketing Plan
Typically one or two paragraphs which introduce the company
and provides an overview of what has been done to date.
Often a company's business plan contains the type of information
you normally see here. May also cover the purpose or intent
of the document in this section too.
2 Situation Analysis
At Quinntessential we use the following types of analysis
to help describe the current situation or environment:
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). Often represented in a table, this type of analysis
focuses on the internal strengths and weaknesses of your
company and the external opportunities and threats that
face it. It is useful to understand these concerns because
they can help shape your marketing messages to minimise
weaknesses and maximise strengths.
Social, Technological, Economic and Political (STEP). Often these trends are already included in the SWOT
analysis. However, by asking the question we ensure that
nothing of significance is left out of your marketing
Competition. Positioning maps are sometimes used
in this section to graphically depict how your company
is positioned relative to competitors against two criteria
important to your customers. Some recruitment agencies
have done research on their main competitors to further
support their 'gut feel', and the findings are included
in this section. The main reason for including this section
is to understand how your company is different to competitors
which again, helps shape a more compelling marketing message
for your agency.
3 Target Audience
Use this section to describe the people you consider to
be your target audience include information about their
geographic location, demographics, and psychographic/life-style.
Build up a picture of the type of people you are targeting.
The advantage of doing this is that it simplifies decisions
about where to advertise and the types of messages to use.
Information from client testimonials, research or basic
feedback forms is also included in this section. For example,
a Client who is in the Insurance sector is likely to read
different material to a Client who is in the IT sector,
so your marketing mediums should be selected accordingly.
Needs analysis is also conducted an often supplemented with
research to help identify the key issues of importance to
your target market.
4 Marketing Objectives
Your marketing objectives should be Specific, Measurable,
Achievable, Realistic and linked to a Timeframe (SMART).
Objectives should also align to the company's wider business
5 Marketing Strategy
The marketing strategy should outline at a high-level the
key strategy(s) that will be used by the company to achieve
the desired marketing objectives.
6 Marketing Tactics
This section details the specific tactics that you will
employ to achieve your marketing strategy. Marketing is
all about effectively communicating with your target audience.
Therefore, it is important that you include a section that
outlines the key messages you want to project to your target
audience. By this stage of the marketing plan, most companies
have identified the key areas where they are different from
competitors. These points of difference should be reinforced
in your marketing materials and adopted in your branding
A) Service and Price Tactics
Outline in this section the products and services that
you offer and the associated price structure. Consider
how you can bundle services to make them more attractive,
or cross-sell/up-sell to increase sales. Outline the conditions
under which you would consider discounting your service.
B) Promotion Tactics
There are many aspects to the marketing communications
mix: advertising, customer service, personal selling,
sales promotion (communication attached to an incentive),
PR and publicity, corporate communications and physical
evidence (eg, foyer layout), and word-of-mouth. This section
outlines in broad detail the activities most appropriate
to help you reach your target audience. It is also effective
in helping to curtail marketing activity that is not strategically
aligned to the objectives.
C) Distribution Tactics
Specify the channels that are used to sell your services,
whether it is bricks and mortar locations and the Internet
or just bricks and mortar. Outline the arrangements you
have with other companies. Perhaps you have partnerships
with companies operating in other States, or partnerships
with companies in other fields (eg, training). This section
helps you to establish if there are any gaps in your delivery
7 Action Plan
This section can be developed as a calendar of events that
outlines when marketing activities will occur, who they
will be targeting and who is responsible for carrying them
out. The major benefit of this section is that it helps
you to develop a plan to ensure you communicate with your
target audience at relevant times throughout the year.
The benefit of this section is the knowledge of what you
intend to spend ahead of time. In developing your marketing
and advertising budget based on the actual cost of rolling
out planned marketing strategies, you help to ensure both
budgeting accuracy and effectiveness (ROI) for your marketing
It is imperative to measure and record the results of your
marketing activity because it enables you to become more
and more effective each year, as you continually refine
your plan to suit the changing needs of your target audience.
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